Half the fun of any panel with Peter Moore on it is just listening to him talk. Sometimes he says funny stuff, sometimes he says important stuff. But he never fails to entertain.
At the PLAY Conference this past weekend, I got to watch the man at work during "The Monetization Game" panel, which also featured Kai Huang — one of Guitar Hero's masterminds — and ngmoco CEO Neil Young. Moore had most of the crowd-pleasing moments and more than a few fair points. But here's a round-up of some of the things these guys said to get the crowd going:
Point One: Plastic and Digital
A big part of the talk centered around plastic peripherals. After all, if the fate of video games is to go all digital download, what's going to happen to all those games that rely on plastic instruments?
At some point during the talk, the moderator asked if the market was saturated with plastic peripherals.
Moore answered, "We're at the point of how much do you want to pay. How many people bought the maracas for Samba de Amigo? [Two people raise their hands]. But if you look at the ability of the industry to sustain the big box mentality — Guitar Hero, Rock Band — it's going to be a challenge. The first time somebody puts a skateboard through their television set... To what extent is the user willing to pay?"
Then he took a dig at Wii Fit's "bathroom scales" as compared to EA Sports Active's awesomeness that doesn't require an expensive peripheral. Later he went after Activision head Bobby Kotick about how if people stop buying Guitar Hero, he'll be sitting on half the world's plastic.
Fair point, but how are you going to get a guitar in the hands of everybody who wants to play Guitar Hero? Face it, cell phone interfaces just aren't the same.
Point Two: Word of mouth marketing
The talk touched on marketing the multiple iterations of Guitar Hero. Huang explained that before the world was used to music video games, the franchise needed a lot of marketing to get people used to the idea of using a plastic guitar. But despite all the dollars dropped on celebrity commercials, it was word of mouth that got games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero into the mainstream.
Here's how Young put it: "There's two types of games. There are games you launch, [sell well], and then they go down. The second type of game just kind of chugs along, does a hundred downloads the first hour. Then a hundred and twenty-five the second hour, a hundred and forty the third hour. What you're seeing is word of mouth happening in front of you."
But Young develops games for the iPhone that publish updates to your Facebook where you're one click away from downloading the game demo for yourself. So maybe word-of-mouth marketing works better for him because it's all digital.
Ask yourself if you're more likely to buy Uncharted 2 after reading Kotaku's review of the game, or after reading Brian Crecente's Facebook status updates about it.
Point Three: Dude, Where's Your Xbox?
Early on in the talk, Moore mentioned that he recently bought a ROKU box to download movies at home. During the Q&A, a Microsoft employee got up and asked him — quite rightly — what happened to his Xbox 360? Then he asked a real question about how soon we could expect to be rid of physical media.
Young answered the first part for Moore: "It red-ringed."
Then Moore said, "[The industry is] at least a decade away from saying goodbye to a physical disc. The more important question is what does the next generation of console look like?" Will it have a disc drive or just anInternet connection? Whatever it is, says Moore, it'll probably be Microsoft that makes the jump first.
Well played, Moore.
Final Point: Chicks and Madden
Moore said that 85% of Madden users (note: not buyers) are male and 65% of EA Sports Active users are female. EA Sports wants to level these numbers out in terms of gender equality, but it's not quite sure how to.
Ladies, any suggestions?